Discovering Lucy

More surprises from Ethiopia - restaurant with generous portions, good food and a place to dance away the calories after dinner.

See more colorful photos from Lucy's dining room and kitchen in this week's slideshow.

It's not often you find yourself getting bottle service at a mesob, the woven round table that functions as the traditional serving structure at Ethiopian restaurants. It's short, small and close to the ground. You don't sit stiffly at a mesob, back straight and elbows off the table. You crouch over it in a huddle with friends, everyone attacking the communal plate at once with big, spongy sheets of injera bread and lifting huge portions of doro wot — a spicy chicken stew — or steamed greens to their mouths with relish.

And if you're eating at Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge, so-named in a nod to Lucy herself — the famous Australopithecus afarensis skeleton found in Ethiopia's Awash Valley in 1974 — you can do all of that and get a bottle of champagne on ice to wash it all down while you watch couples dance in that shy, rhythmic, shoulder-bobbing East African way to the pulsing beat of modern Amharic artists too obscure for the Shazaam app on my iPhone to recognize. This is Lucy on a Saturday night, and it's an atmosphere unlike any other in Houston — energetic, vibrant, vital and totally ­addictive.

The Ethiopian food at Lucy comes out hot, fresh and in heaping portions.
Troy Fields
The Ethiopian food at Lucy comes out hot, fresh and in heaping portions.

Location Info


Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge

6800 SW Freeway
Houston, TX 77074

Category: Restaurant > Ethiopian

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

9400 Richmond
Houston, TX 77063

Category: Restaurant > African

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Sheba Cafe

6251 Bissonnet
Houston, TX 77081

Category: Restaurant > Ethiopian

Region: Outer Loop - SW


Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, noon to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Lucy burger: $9.95
Doro wot: $10.95
Kitfo: $12.95
Tibs: $12.95
Vegetarian combo platter: $16.95
New York strip steak: $17.95
Meat combo platter: $26.95

SLIDESHOW: Discovering Lucy: Houston's Newest Ethiopian Restaurant
BLOG POST: Lucy: Making Ethiopian Food Look Good

The modern Ethiopian music that Lucy blasts over its speakers is only one way in which the restaurant represents a new standard for the few Ethiopian restaurants in Houston. Lucy is inviting to Ethiopian expats and newcomers to the cuisine alike, thanks to a beautiful build-out inside an old Shoney's on the Southwest Freeway that completely masks its roots. The tall ceilings in the main dining room are lined with clean, chic, almost Nordic-looking wooden planks from which drip mid-century-style crystal chandeliers. The bar is equally chic, gem-toned bottles of liquor lining glass shelves all the way to the ceiling, matching the candy-colored neon lights that illuminate an attached lounge, where white leather chairs mingle with those colorful woven mesobs.

Nearby, a small doorway admits you to an even loungier portion of Lucy, where you'll find people clustered in tight, smiling groups on low-slung banquettes and grounded pillows while they eat. I've yet to visit Lucy when this lounge isn't packed — which means I've yet to eat in there myself.

The bright, colorful sign in the parking lot speaks to a very Houstonian way of life that's often replicated inside. The restaurant shares a lot with a used-car dealership, which advertises in both Spanish and broken Spanglish: "Cars, trocas, diesel. Venta y financiamos." Underneath those green and orange ads are red and white signs for Lucy, in both English and Amharic. It's the Bayou City tapestry in a nutshell.

Inside, you'll find not just Ethiopians but whites, Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans enjoying a meal — something that's a far bit rarer at other Ethiopian joints in town such as Blue Nile or Sheba. Intermingled with the Amharic dance music on Friday and Saturday nights, when Lucy stays open until 2 a.m. are rap artists like V.I.C. and Latin singers like ­Amarfis and Juano, encouraging people to dance in the middle of the dining room, cleared of tables to make way for bodies in motion. And on Lucy's menu, you'll find not only Ethiopian standards like kitfo and tibs, but also more mainstream items such as a hamburger topped with spicy awaze mayonnaise and a New York strip steak served with a baked potato and ­vegetables.

Blue Nile, which leans toward the more traditional end of the limited Ethiopian spectrum in Houston, was where I had my first meal of injera and doro wot that wasn't made by a friend's hands in her own kitchen. It's where I learned to love the cuisine and where I experimented excitedly with new dishes every time I visited. But after a while, visiting became a bit expensive and portions became a bit smaller, although the food remained as good as ever. And so I stopped going as often as I once did.

I was hesitant, for this reason, to try Lucy. I didn't want to fall head-over-heels in love with the food — as I did at Blue Nile — and find myself reluctant to go, to spend a huge amount of money with each visit. The upscale, modern trappings of the restaurant had me convinced on my first visit that it would be even more expensive than my old favorite. So I was pleased to find yet another reason that Lucy is the ideal place to take both newcomers and longtime fans of the cuisine: My group of seven people on that first night absolutely destroyed a table full of food, a bottle of wine, multiple soft drinks and baskets of injera bread for only $35 a person...including tax and tip.

And the portions were far from miserly. Where you would once get a platter of lentils and greens and cabbage all piled high and overlapping onto each other at other Ethiopian restaurants, now it's more common to see several inches of room between each spoonful of food. The food at Lucy, however, came out hot, fresh and in heaping portions. So big were the portions on the combo plates we ordered, in fact, that we only finished a little over half of the food on our table.

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